Amy Rigby

When the bubbles of jocularity are injected into songwriting, after a few spins the mix can often go as flat as a bottle of champagne left open overnight. But with Til the Wheels Fall Off and five albums into a career as the witty voice of the grown-up modern girl in a mixed-up world, Amy Rigby has managed to keep her art sparkling.

Humor isn't Rigby's sole stock-in-trade even if she can always crack a good one in the face of romantic adversity. Rather than going for the jugular, Rigby works the accumulated pinpricks and paper cuts of life that over time drain lots of blood, as a title like "Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?" implies. She fashions irony into insight and absurdity into revelation, and has a gift for those little observations -- her daughter's chipped fingernail polish or a Chuck Berry song on the radio -- that, like the early writing of Lucinda Williams, are telling enough to convey something greater. All along, Rigby's songs have borne that lived-in feel that resonates with the considerable weight of real life.

But it's her melodic forte that gives her world-weary ruminations wings. Her songs play like the swooning strains of old-school AM radio, even if her subject matter happens to find her battling the daunting reality of finding love and fulfillment in a frustratingly unreliable world. And few observers of the vagaries of life and love in these here times convey as well as Rigby the fact that a cynic is just a romantic and idealist who has lived long and fully enough to know the score. Long may she run.

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Rob Patterson